Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes returned to her New Hampshire alma mater this past weekend to deliver the commencement address to Dartmouth‘s graduating class of 2014. The address began with Rhimes listing her many aversions to public speaking and noting her initial urge to turn down the opportunity. That introduction fraught with anxiety and all of its unpleasant byproducts – vomit and poop amongst them – lead to a “fireside chat” full of real life advice from the celebrated writer and fearless leader of ShondaLand. Rhimes’ speech was highlighted by her discussion of the failure that accompanies success as people attempt to “do it all” in balancing the most important aspects of their lives:
Shonda, how do you do it all?
The answer is this: I don’t.
Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means I am failing in another area of my life.
If I am killing it on a Scandal script for work, I am probably missing bath and story time at home. If I am at home sewing my kids’ Halloween costumes, I’m probably blowing off a rewrite I was supposed to turn in. If I am accepting a prestigious award, I am missing my baby’s first swim lesson. If I am at my daughter’s debut in her school musical, I am missing Sandra Oh’s last scene ever being filmed at Grey’s Anatomy. If I am succeeding at one, I am inevitably failing at the other. That is the tradeoff. That is the Faustian bargain one makes with the devil that comes with being a powerful working woman who is also a powerful mother. You never feel a hundred percent OK; you never get your sea legs; you are always a little nauseous. Something is always lost.
Something is always missing.
Continuing, she discussed the power of doing instead of relying solely upon hashtags and other cute but largely ineffective indicators of activism:
Oh. And while we are discussing this, let me say a thing. A hashtag is not helping. #yesallwomen #takebackthenight #notallmen #bringbackourgirls #StopPretendingHashtagsAreTheSameAsDoingSomething
Hashtags are very pretty on Twitter. I love them. I will hashtag myself into next week. But a hashtag is not a movement. A hashtag does not make you Dr. King. A hashtag does not change anything. It’s a hashtag. It’s you, sitting on your butt, typing on your computer and then going back to binge-watching your favorite show. I do it all the time. For me, it’s Game of Thrones.
Volunteer some hours. Focus on something outside yourself. Devote a slice of your energies towards making the world suck less every week. Some people suggest doing this will increase your sense of well-being. Some say it’s good karma. I say that it will allow you to remember that, whether you are a legacy or the first in your family to go to college, the air you are breathing right now is rare air. Appreciate it. Don’t be an asshole.
Check the footage below to watch the entire 2014 Dartmouth commencement address. Check your local listings to keep up with the latest from Shonda Rhimes.